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Learning Chinese - Phrases for Travelers

written by: Sonal Panse • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 9/11/2012

Chinese is a beautiful language. Quite musical. If you plan on visiting China, you ought to pick up a few basic Chinese phrases for travelers. They could help you get around in China and make great conversational starters as well.

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    Traveling is known to broaden one's horizons. More so, if you take the time to learn a bit of the culture and language of the place you are traveling to. If you're headed for Zhōngguó (China), pick up some Zhōngguórén / Zhōngwén (Chinese) phrases. English is widely spoken in China, of course, but having you spout their own language will make the natives friendlier.

    Things to keep in mind about the Chinese language -

    • Chinese is a tonal language. Getting the right tone is extremely important. Otherwise you will say one thing and what the listeners understand will be quite another thing.
    • There are five tones - high, rising, falling-rising, high-falling and neutral. These need repeated listening and careful pronunciation.
    • Chinese is written in Hanzi script. There are six categories of Hanzi, which can make written Chinese more difficult to learn than the spoken. Chinese is also written in a romanized script called Pinyin. Pinyin has accents as shown below.
    • Mandarin Chinese has 38 vowel sounds (called finals in Pinyin) and 21 consonant sounds (called initials in Pinyin).

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    Here are some basic Chinese phrases to help you along -

      • Hello - Nĭ hăo
      • Good morning! - Zăo shàng hăo
      • How are you? - Nĭ hăo ma?
      • I am fine, thanks - Wŏ hen hăo
      • What is your name? - Nĭ jiào shen me?
      • My name is XYZ - Wŏ jiào XYZ
      • Nice to meet you - Rèn shì nĭn hĕn gāo xìng
      • I'm glad to meet you - Jian dao nĭ wŏ hen gāo xìng
      • Where are you from? - Nĭ shì cong nae lái de?
      • What is your nationality? - Nĭ shì na guō rén?
      • I am not Chinese - Wŏ bù shì Zhōngguó rén
      • I'm from EFG - Wŏ shì EFG rén
      • I come from HIJ - Wŏ cong HIJ lái de
      • When did you come? - Shen me shì hou lái de?
      • Do you speak English? - Nĭ huì shuō ying yu ma?
      • I'm sorry - Duì bù qĭ
      • I don't understand - Wŏ tīng bù dŏng
      • Can you speak Chinese? - Nĭ huì shuō Zhōngwén ma?
      • I can speak Chinese - Wŏ huì shuō Zhōngwén
      • I can speak a little, not very well - Wŏ huì shuō yì dià, bú tài hăo
      • I am learning Chinese now - Wŏ xiànzài zài xué Zhōngwén
      • I study Chinese literature - Wŏ xué Zhōngguó wénxué
      • I work for a company - Wŏ zài gōng sī gōng zuò
      • Here's my business card - Zhē shì wŏde míng piàn
      • Excuse me - Qĭng wèn
      • What are the places of interests around here? - Zhē fu jin yiu shén me jing dian?
      • Good evening! - Wănshàng hăo!
      • What would you like to eat? - Nĭmen chī diăn shén me?
      • Please - Qĭng
      • I'd like a fruit juice - Wŏ yào yī gè guō zhi
      • How much is it? - Duō shăo qián?
      • Where is Kunming Hotel, please? - Qing wen Kunmìng fandian zài nălĭ?
      • Do you have any rooms tonight? - Jīntiān wănshang yŏu fángjiān ma?
      • Yes, we do - Yōu
      • I'd like a single room - Wŏ yào dan ren fang
      • Where is the toilet - Ce suo zài nălĭ?
      • Thank you - Xièxie
      • You are welcome - Bù kèqì
      • Goodbye! - Zàijiàn!